Shepparton Harness Racing Club honoured its top achievers for the 2017-18 season at a successful function last Sunday night.
Shepparton’s Nathan Jack and Laura Crossland claimed the two major home town awards and were present on the night to receive their trophies.
Jack beat an illustrious rival in Chris Alford to claim the Driver of the Year award, while Crossland beat some well established trainers to claim her first Trainer of the Year accolade of the club.
Colleen Aiken in accepting the Concession Driver of the Year award on behalf of her son, Josh, told how her son was lucky to be still with us after being struck down by illness while recently touring in Europe.
It necessitated Josh being hospitalised for three weeks in Switzerland. Josh is currently driving in Sydney.
Judy Bourke, wife of Bunbartha trainer Brian Bourke, who prepared the Trotter of the Year winner, Starlight Storm, told the gathering of the roller-coaster ride the winner had taken them on before the penny dropped and he started winning races.
Judy also explained the Starlight prefix the Bourkes use in all their horse naming originated from a glance upwards one bright starry night while attending a foal birth when they lived at Rockbank.
Young Sarah Walsh, accompanied by her older sister Rachele Robinson, won the hearts of the gathering in delivering her response to receiving the Horse of the Year award for Pow Wow Bromac on behalf of the pacer’s trainer, he mother Isabel, who was unable to attend the evening as she is recovering from knee surgery.
Jack and Crossland thanked the owners and trainers and everyone else who had supported them during the season which had all helped in winning their awards.
The club’s general manager Ian McDonald compered the evening and trophy recipients were all interviewed in the usual professional manner by Rod Booker in what was voted a good night by all.
The band Denva also proved popular and also the guest artist appearance of Shepparton horseman David Moran whose rendition of the John Denver hit Thank God I’m a Country Boy was well received. But Moran reported this week he was still waiting a call from a recording company.
Three in his bag
Shepparton reinsman Nathan Jack spearheaded a huge night for district trainers and drivers last Saturday night at Melton.
Jack was the star of the night with a driving treble, but fellow Shepparton reinsman Mark Pitt and Harston horseman Dennis Paton also tasted success at the meeting.
Jack’s hat-trick was achieved on the Amanda Turnbull-trained Our Positano, the Graeme Dalton-prepared Animated and the Paton-trained trotter Lord Lohki.
Our Positano was one of the most solidly supported runners on the program and the confidence was vindicated with Jack driving the pacer to an all-the-way victory in a M1 class race. The Bettors Delight five-year-old ended up a $1.10 chance on the tote.
Jack was again at his front running best on Animated who was able to clear his rivals from barrier five at the start and led throughout to win a M0 class race.
Animated was also confidently supported and ended up paying $3.70 which was almost half his opening price.
There were more handsome rewards for Jack fans when he brought Lord Lohki from last off the back straight to get up in a crowded finish.
Despite winning at his previous outing at Bendigo at cricket score odds of 65/1, Lord Lohki was again neglected by most punters and paid a handsome $22.40 for the win, the fifth of his career.
The other locally-flavoured win at Melton was achieved by Pitt who partnered the Emma Stewart-trained hot favourite Shadow Sax to win the Sokyola Sprint.
It was another pillar-to-post victory in what was a Goulburn Valley trifecta with the David Aiken duo Wrappers Delight and Audi Hare filling the minor placings.
The Penny drops
The Chris Alford factor did the trick for Kyabram-trained Gallifrey Penny on Friday night at Shepparton.
Driving the Kati Gunn-trained pacer for the first time, record breaking reinsman Alford made every post a winner over the 1690m dash to end a winless 14-race streak with the six-year-old Sutter Hanover mare.
Gallifrey Penny had not saluted since winning at Shepparton almost a year ago, but had eight top four finishes since that win.
Alford utilised Gallifrey Penny’s barrier two draw to dictate terms from the front and had nearly 5m to spare over the runner-up, the Damian Wilson-trained Miss McManus at the finishing line with another Kyabram-trained pacer Thermo, who was sent out favourite in her first race start filling the minor placing.
Out of the former top racemare Penny The Pussycat, a 17 times winner, Gallifrey Penny’s winning mile rate of 1:59.3 was a PB from her 22 starts which have produced two wins and six placings.
Mista rocks Louis
Shepparton-trained pacers fought out the finish of the Shepparton BMW Pace for C2-C3 class pacers — but the result didn’t go the way most punters thought.
The Dean Chandler-trained and Chris Alford-driven Mista Lombo, a $10 chance, out-toughed the $1.80 favourite, the Clive Dalton-prepared and Greg Sugars-driven Allmightyjoelouis in a thrilling duel to the finishing post.
After two seconds and a fourth leading into the race Mista Lombo was overdue for another win, having not won at his past 17 starts with his previous win recorded at Bathurst in March.
Formerly trained by John McCarthy, Mista Lombo, who is a five-year-old gelding by Somebeachsomewhere, has been in the Chandler barn for nine starts.
He is beautifully bred with his dam the Blissful Hall mare Miss Trickin Lombo, a winner of 15 races and more than $230000 in prizemoney, who has left two other winners.
Higher and faster
A track record went by the board in a blistering return to racing by the David Aiken-trained Higherthananeagle at the Cobram non-TAB meeting on Melbourne Cup day.
Driven by Kima Frenning and making his first appearance since July, Higherthananeagle zipped over the 1670m trip in a sizzling 1:53.3 mile rate, smashing Flying Moth’s record of 1:54.4 by a whopping 1.01 seconds.
Frenning made an early move to the front on Higherthananeagle and the four-year-old son of Mach Three proceeded to run his rivals ragged, gapping the second horse home, Time Keepa Lombo, by nearly 26m with Zozo Ma Gogo filling the minor placing.
Raced by the Stokie Racing Group Higherthananeagle is a winner of seven of his 21 starts.
A Gale force win
The Jack and Linda Gale trotters handicap at Cobram was won by the owners the race was named after.
The Steve Boyington-trained Majestic Action is owned by the Gales and put in an eye-catching run to space his rivals, beating the runner-up Tennoeagle by nearly 25m.
Laura Crossland did the driving honours and a 57.9 last half was the reason his rivals were left floundering a little at the finish.
Majestic Action has always been a talented trotter, but according to Boyington has had some issues he has had to sort out.
Dad and Dave show
Shepparton trainer Dave Farrar took two pacers — Just Dad and Heres A Real Go — to Cobram on Tuesday with mixed feelings about their chances.
He didn’t think Just Dad was racing well enough to be a chance, but he thought Heres A Real Go could be more than competitive in his race.
You guessed it — Just Dad stormed home to win at tote odds of nearly 30/1 and Heres A Real Go, who was well fancied, beat one runner home in the race won by record breaker Higherthananeagle.
As they say that’s racing.
Apart from the wins of Just Dad and Higherthananeagle, other district pacers to win at the meeting were Mongiana and Dream To Share.
The Steve O’Donoghue-trained and Bec Bartley-driven Mongiana put in a tough run to race without cover and prevail in a C0 class race.
A lightly raced son of Life Sign Mongiana had been working up to his maiden win six minor placings in eight starts going into the race.
Nathan Jack piloted Dream To Share to victory in a R5 or better class event for trainer Amanda Turnbull and brought up his 10 career win with his latest success.
Today: Bendigo (n).
Tomorrow: Melton (n).
Sunday: St Arnaud (d).
Monday: Cobram (n).
Tuesday: Mildura (n).
Wednesday: Kilmore (d), Ararat (n).
Thursday: Ballarat (n).